If you’ve been following our work for any length of time, whether it’s from afar while grazing through our social media posts, or while interacting more closely with us such as during our Movement Meet-Up calls, or even while perusing in a brief visit to our website, you would likely see or hear our branded tagline consisting of three keywords that are near and dear to our hearts:

Attuned, Adaptable, Dexterous

Of course, we have talked about why those words mean so much to us many times across those mediums. However, just a quick refresher here now:

Attuned – A quality which describes a performer who has become perceptually sensitive to the most specifying informational variables for achieving a task goal (Michaels & Jacobs, 2007)

Adaptable – A quality which describes a performer who is able to coordinate and control their movement to maintain a more functional performer-environment relationship (Davids & Araujo, 2011)

Dexterous – A characteristic which explains how one is able to organize a movement solution for any emerging, external situation, in any situation and in any condition (Bernstein, 1996)

In a nutshell, those words begin to describe the qualities and characteristics which underpin and embody a more functionally skillful and masterful mover in sport. 

However, unpacking where those concepts live and breathe, within the movement behavior and skill expression of athletes out in the competitive arena, is NOT where our focus of today’s blog post is. Instead, I want to take a few moments to discuss how and why YOU, as a Sport Movement Professional, should use them as your guiding intentions when it comes to the learning environments you design to better facilitate enhanced movement skill for your athletes. 

When beginning to utilize an Ecological Dynamics framework for influencing one’s view of movement behavior in sport, and as Professionals begin to adopt ideas such as nonlinear pedagogy, representative task design, and a constraints-led approach, I often see people invest a tremendous amount of time in their learning activity design/problem-setting. This is obviously done with good intentions, and quite honestly, it is something that all Sport Movement Professionals should do. 

Unfortunately, many often mistakenly think that this is all that is needed in order to enhance the movement skill for athletes in the competitive arena. However, we must take this another step further. Quite simply, to help guide our athletes to this holy grail of skill attunement and adaptation as performers, we must personally take steps to become more attuned and adaptable (and ultimately, dexterous) ourselves, once we are out in the learning environment, stationed in the partnering, mutual relationship with the athlete in the session! 

Seems intuitively obvious, right? Yet, I think it’s safe to say that it’s easier said than done. So, how do we start to take steps to becoming more attuned, adaptable, and dexterous and evolve our crafts as Sport Movement Specialists?

  1. Stay in constant contact with the energy

Just as the athlete herself will be attempting to pick-up and use the information in the environment to guide her movement behaviors, you too should aim to be sensitive to energies (information) of all sorts present within the session. This will allow you to better adjust what is to come within that given session as well as gain a more complete understanding of the athlete’s movement behaviors to design better problems in all future interactions. 

  1. Be willing to veer off the plan

It’s human nature, probably more so for coaches than others, to desire to be in control more often than not. Most coaches also want to feel as though the work that they did prior to the session, in their planning and programming, was detailed, well thought-out, and exactly what the athlete needs to advance their skill. However, let’s remember, as a coach or Sport Movement Specialist, you are part of a complex, dynamic system and each athlete themselves, is also one (a complex, dynamic system). Meaning, even the best problem setter or learning environment designer in the game will very rarely ‘get everything right’ ahead of time. Instead, the best facilitator will be the one who is willing to adapt accordingly based on who the athlete is on that respective day and how learning or skill refinement should be guided because of this. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to manipulate constraints

To take point #2 another step further, very rarely will the problem that you design and set initially, represent the optimal challenge point for each athlete throughout the entire session. Meaning, you are likely going to be required to frequently manipulate constraints to either stretch the performer in more adequate ways, or to scale the information to make it more accessible for the athlete. When you do this (manipulate the constraints), the problem that is presented to the athlete will be modified, and the information that links the athlete and her movement solutions to the environment and its problem will change in various ways. This will be why the intelligent Sport Movement Specialist must always couple their perceptions, intentions, and actions themselves, just as the athlete does! 

Becoming more attuned, adaptable, and dexterous is not some pipe dream that is only to be attained by mere happenstance and luck. It can be embodied and embedded across the entirety of our learning environments, by both the athletes and ourselves, if we are proactive in chasing these qualities relentlessly and allowing them to guide our learning environment intentions. 

If you want to keep unpacking what attunement, adaptability, and dexterity mean within the movement behavior in sport of athletes of all levels, I would like to invite you to dive into our comprehensive course, Underpinnings.

Learn more about Underpinnings.

Shawn is the Co-Director of Education & Co-Founder of Emergence. He developed content for the educational brand, Movement Mastery, from 2014 till the formation of Emergence, with the sole purpose of helping to enable a deeper understanding of the processes involved in the acquisition of more masterful movement for athletes in sport. Shawn has served primarily as a Personal Performance Advisor & Movement Skill Acquisition Coach for National Football League (NFL) players since 2008, working with approximately 12 players each year.